With support from the U.S. Agency for International Development, in February 2012, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) started a program that utilizes bar and legal education reform to improve access to impartial justice. ABA ROLI will support the creation and institutionalization of a national bar in Kyrgyzstan. It will also help introduce additional skills-based trainings to prepare attorneys and advocates more adequately.
Working with Kyrgyz law schools, ABA ROLI will support four existing legal clinics and provide funding and technical support for two new legal clinics. Further enhancement of legal clinical education will come from new, practical skills courses developed by a ROLI-initiated Inter-University Working Group. In addition, ABA ROLI will sponsor a national client counseling competition among legal clinic students.
The absence of a unified, national bar association in Kyrgyzstan has limited career development and networking opportunities for lawyers. It has also meant that there are no national professional standards for the lawyers who organize only through local institutions that operate independently. Through its new program, ABA ROLI will support thedevelopment and growth of a unified bar association and well-qualified attorneys. Additionally, ABA ROLI will provide institutional support to the new national bar association, assist with the creationof an ethics panel and improve the qualification system for attorney and advocate licensure.
While we have been working in Kyrgyzstan for nearly 20 years, in 2008, we established the Advocates’ Training Center to foster sustainability of our efforts. The center is the only local institution that provides consistent and quality continuing legal education for practicing lawyers. ABA ROLI also provides institutional support to the Judicial Training Center. Furthermore, ABA ROLI has assisted legal clinics across the country since 2001—including as part of its USAID-funded legal education reform program between 2004 and 2008. Since 2005, these legal clinics have provided free legal services to almost 10,000 Kyrgyz citizens who would not have been able to pay for a lawyer and would not have had help with their problems. The centers continue to operate today. We helped eight law schools introduce a legal ethics course into their curriculum and publish related textbooks. We also organized mock trials and moot court competitions to increase the trial advocacy skills of law students.
Continuing its capacity-building efforts, ABA ROLI will provide attorneys with critical-skills trainings they do not gain in law schools, and strengthen connections among legal professionals across the country.